Abebech Gobena led an incredible life: after escaping from a forced marriage as a child bride, Gobena went on to become a huge icon in Africa. In Ethiopia, she took her experiences and built an orphanage, schools, a hospital for women and children, vocational training centers and wells, and more.

Ms. Gobena is frequently referred to as the “Mother Teresa of Africa.”

German first lady Daniela Schadt meets Abebech Gobena in 2013 / Photo courtesy of UNICEF Ethiopia / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Ms. Gobena died of complications from COVID-19 on July 4th in the capital city of Addis Ababa; she was 85-years-old. She dedicated the majority of her life to serving others and her impact is well-documented. According to an account of her life, Ms. Gobena has taken in at least 21 orphans throughout her travels across Africa.

She also built a nonprofit organization that, according to the Washington Post, served thousands of children, provided shelter, sustenance, and schooling. They also offered skill training (like sewing and plumbing), dispensed grants, repaired homes, built latrines, and provided HIV/AIDS prevention and medical care.

“Abebech Gobena was one of the most selfless and pure-hearted people I ever met,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization and a former Ethiopian minister of health, said in a statement according to the Washington Post.

“She helped many children not only to survive, but succeed in life. Starting with two orphans she brought home during the famine in the 1980s, she grew a large family, even at times to the detriment of her own.”

After a lifetime of making the world a better place, Ms. Gobena’s legacy will live on through her humanitarian work and endless compassion for others.